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Long overdue

October 21, 2010

Juan Williams got the boot from NPR, finally. This has produced the predictable responses from his other patron, Fox news, as well as various other right-wingers. When I went to look at his wiki page, I found it had been edited recently to add a frivolous opinion piece. A user named ‘Labargeboy’ wishes to add this and is fighting with the users/admins etc. trying to stick to the facts. So far, three edits/reversions before I stopped checking. (‘This U.S. Citizen’ is clearly not me.)

This U.S. Citizen believes Juan Williams was stating fact, because Islamic terrorists attacked us on 9-11 in the name of Islam. Islam requires that all non-believers be converted or killed, and political correctness demands that any special minority group may not be spoken against in any fashion. It’s true that we are paralyzed by following political correctness and that Islam perfected, that is following Islam strictly, will bring pain and suffering for those that speak out against it.

The vagaries of the Internet, I suppose.

Juan Williams naturally earned my ire and suspicion when he took a job of punditry at Fox. It amused me to hear hosts like Diane Rehm pointedly add ‘fox news analyst’ etc. as if to say, ‘take this guy with a grain of salt.’ And while the right wing fights with wiki users to vandalize the site, I find they haven’t erased this earlier gaffe yet.

Due to Williams’ commentary on the Fox News Channel, NPR requested that the FNC stop identifying him as an NPR host. NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard maintained that: “Williams tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox.” Williams’ following comment triggered the move:

Michelle Obama, you know, she’s got this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going. If she starts talking, as Mary Katharine is suggesting, her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I’m the victim. If that stuff starts coming out, people will go bananas and she’ll go from being the new Jackie O to being something of an albatross.

“As a result of this latest flap, NPR’s Vice President of News, Ellen Weiss, has asked Williams to ask that Fox remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O’Reilly.” [6]

This is hardly the sort of talk one finds on NPR, aside from perhaps Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Ok, maybe not even there. On NPR, right now, they’re talking about his work as a news analyst on NPR and as a pundit on Fox, and how these two roles — journalism vs. opinion — were an incompatible mix for NPR. That’s understandable, I suppose. I don’t think they would want to hire, say, Keith Olbermann either.

As for what he actually got fired for:

NPR terminated his contract on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 after he made the following remarks on The O’Reilly Factor two days earlier: “Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean, look Bill [O’Reilly], I’m not a bigot, you know the kind of books I’ve written on the civil rights movement in this country, but when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” According to NPR, the remarks were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”[7]

Now, what’s the reality Juan is supposedly tackling here? That he’s not a bigot, but that people Flying While Muslim scare him? Yes, it’s intentional to compare this to the other popular catchphrase, ‘driving while black’. And what does it mean to be a bigot, anyway?

bigot (pluralbigots)

  1. one who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices
  2. one who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

I think the case could easily be made for definition #2: Juan says he’s not a bigot, he’s ok with black and white folks presumably, but evidently blatant displays of Islam are outside of his comfort zone.

Does he think that some white bigots can’t or wouldn’t explain their bigotry towards African-Americans in similar terms? Being afraid, nervous, based on looks? (Naturally, NPR’s ombudsman takes the words from my fingers just after I type this 🙂 You’ll have to trust me on being first. Or not. It was on Talk of the Nation today, go listen to her yourself.)

Couldn’t he have explained this fear and then taken it on, dismissed it, denounced it as irrational, potentially racist? No. Apparently, instead he just lays it out there and Fox gives a platform for this irrational fear, this seeming bigotry. That is the real problem, to me. As the discussion on NPR is going into while I type, it’s not just the acknowledgment of such fears (we’re not obliged to be perfect), but the legitimization of them.

So, there you are, Juan. You have Fox, still. They will embrace you warmly, give you a place to nurture and express your irrational fear. It is their stock in trade.

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One comment

  1. I’d expect people to look at me suspiciously if it were a white female that blew up a few planes & buildings.



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